Anglican Future Seen in New Territories, Old Teachings: Seminaries Called `Wasteland of Mediocrity'

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THE FUTURE of the Anglican Church lies in new territories and old teachings, according to several speakers at a conference hosted by Regent College in Vancouver.

Clergy and ordinands from Canada and the United States came to discuss The Future of Anglican Ministry from May 12-15, at an event organized through Regent's Anglican Studies program.

Dr. George Egerton, a history professor at the University of British Columbia and editor of the conservative publication, Anglican Essentials, delivered the keynote address. Statistics show a decline in the number of people who attend Anglican churches in the so-called First World, he said. The church has responded to modernity by revising its theology and accommodating the culture, but despite these adaptations, the church remains marginalized, he said.

Dr. Egerton warned of "a very real and imminent danger" of schisms within the church, which he said could only be avoided by reaffirming the central tenets of Anglicanism. Many seminaries, he said, had become "wastelands of mediocrity" that no longer offer a distinct moral point of view.

But there are also signs of hope, he said. He identified the signs as a resurgence of evangelicalism, the Essentials movement of which he is a leader, the widespread acceptance of the Alpha program even in liberal churches, and the "exemplary" theological leadership of bishops from Africa and Asia, as evidenced at the 1998 Lambeth conference.

Commenting on the recent renegade ordination of two conservative U.S. priests in Singapore, Dr. Egerton said missionary bishops are an "alarming innovation," but the censuring and exiling of orthodox bishops would be worse.

The Anglican Studies program began four years ago in response to a demand from students who wanted their training at Regent to qualify them for ordination in the Anglican church, said Dr. Don Lewis, who oversees the program. The qualifications a candidate for ordination must meet vary from bishop to bishop, but Dr. Lewis said there has been "a growing acceptance" of the evangelical school's program among Canadian bishops.

Ten of Regent's Anglican Studies graduates were ordained in the past two years, he added. "If we're doing an average of five a year, that suggests we're having some impact," he said. "I hope that number goes up much higher. And the reason for that hope is that we attract high-quality candidates for ministry that bishops are interested in looking at."

Rev. Harry Robinson, chaplain of the Anglican Studies program, told the conference preachers need to embrace the foolishness of the cross, rather than "reduce the gospel" to terms that are acceptable to "the prevailing wisdom of the age we are locked into. …